Saturday, 1 August 2015

H G Dunn and Sons Funeral vehicles

The first funeral account records that indicate that the Dunns owned their own horsedrawn hearse is contained in accounts before 1830. Hearses were by tradition long lived vehicles as they travelled at low speeds. The Dunns organised "long distance" funerals to several counties in this era with week long journeys recorded to Suffolk.
It seems likely that Herbert George Dunn on taking over the trade in Bromley Kent in the 1870's modernised the horse drawn hearse and this vehicle survived well in to the Twentieth Century as the images date from circa 1930.

The motor hearse first appeared on London Streets from around 1906 and was at first used for conveying coffins in a closed compartment. The Dunn funeral accounts indicate an increasing need for conveyance from Barming (Kent County Asylum) London hospitals and residences for burial at Bromley and surrounding parishes and for increasing demand for cremation at Golders Green Crematorium. The accounts also reflect conveyance to the Necropolis Company rail link at Waterloo. There was also an increasing need for collection from The Infirmary at Locksbottom The Bromley Cottage Hospital and Lady Margaret's Hospital in Bromley as well as various nursing homes in the district and Herbert George acquired a motor hearse. The image above appears to be collection from Bromley Cottage Hospital and is undated. The vehicle is estimated to be circa 1920;the image may have been taken circa 1930.
The accounts indicate continued use of the horse drawn hearse well into the twentieth century.
In this image Herbert George Dunn is directing 6 bearers carrying in the words of funeral accounts "a stout oak panelled coffin raised lid". I believe the brass ringed handles are visible on the coffin and am trying to match them with designs of manufacturers contained in surviving travelling representatives pattern books.
Images Courtesy of Bromley Local Studies and Archives are found in a catalogued box of miscellaneous images of the Company.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Bromley First World War

On a glorious July Saturday I visited Southborough Road Allotment and Gardens Association, venue for the First World War Allotment demonstrating varieties popular during 1914-1918. I sampled two of the three First World War recipes on offer

  • Trench Cake (from a recipe provided by Waitrose)
  • Bread pudding which was made with suet and steamed
Both recipes are featured in the Bromley Information and recipes from the First World War leaflet Heritage Lottery Funded and researched by Bromley Archives and Local Studies who had prepared two large illustrated panels to show the history of the Bromley borough allotment sites and their significance.
Rationing of sugar,meat,butter and margarine, bacon and ham had placed greater emphasis on self reliance in food growing in gardens and allotments. The displays on the site used extracts from archival material to evoke the period.
I learned that potatoes were in great demand.In an extract from the Bromley Times April 1917 "extraordinary scenes were witnessed in Farnborough over the past fortnight as thousands of people have visited the place hoping to obtain the highly prized 'spud' Mister Staples is selling in 7 pound lots for one shilling."
The coloured illustrated booklet drew recipes from Waitrose magazine The Great War Cook book published by Amberley Books Mrs Beetons 1861 volume Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management and the splendid 1915 The Beckenham Book of Cookery and Household Hints which is from the Local Studies collection at Bromley.
The allotment presentation was an excellent way of involving the local community in First World War history and there was a fascinating display of knitting socks and balaclavas for soldiers with a Paton and Baldwins knitting pattern illustrating a further range of knitted items including socks for hospital patients including casualties evacuated from the fighting in France and Belgium.
Well done Southborough Road Allotment and Gardens Association for all your hard work to achieve an excellent display. It was a part of the Bromley First World War events taking place since 2014 and continuing to 2018 which are part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Bromley in the First World War. The London Borough of Bromley "Caring for Casualties of the First World War" can be found here. I kept up to date on the allotment project this year by following progress and poster for the event on this web site which is part of the project.
Bromley Archivist Lucy Allen has spoken at various Libraries and a touring exhibit has featured in Libraries and Bromley Museum this year.
The website is interactive and contributors have recorded places and people in the borough who cared for casualties in Bromley and will continue to grow as volunteers contribute local specialised knowledge as well as volunteer information from a wide variety of sources over the four years of volunteering.
Today gave me some recipes I certainly want to try including Parsnip marmalade ( from the Great War Cook Book) which Lucy and others from the association recommend!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

H G Dunn and Sons Limited Market Square Bromley

Image Courtesy of Bromley Archives and Local Studies
To attempt a history of the Dunn family would require a book but Dunns of Market Square Bromley in the twentieth century represented the largest business of the town and as will be seen shortly brought customers from far and wide.
The Dunn family had traded from premises in Market Square since at least 1710 and possibly earlier. Furthermore they had been long serving Bromley parish clerks and sextons and had been benefactors to the poor of the town. Thier business developed from drapery furniture and cabinet makers upholsterers and undertakers.
Herbert George Dunn took over the business from his father Edward and followed his great grandfather John and great great grandfather William. The funeral accounts which date from 1803 record John's trade and later Edward's.
The Dunn's premises in Market Square on the north side of the square had both a shop and behind it in Coopers Yard a furniture store. Herbert George had developed a large furniture Depository which opened in Widmore Road in 1876 and from there the large fleet of vans operated. Herbert George Dunn had brought the first pantechnicon van to Bromley in 1880 and had also housed the funeral business in the depository building which had wooden partitioned secure rooms on each floor. This gave the funeral business a flexibility to accommodate a mortuary and those awaiting burial overnight with an Attendant as well as the construction  and treatment of coffins and housing the funeral vehicles.
In 1909 " The Great Fire of Bromley" as it was described by The District Times in the 25 June 1909 edition destroyed many of the buildings on the north side of the square and scorched other buildings including the Congragational church in Widmore Road. A year later H G Wells "History of Mister Polly" includes a great fire also.
W Baxter in his itinereary of Bromley 1929 records the 300 year old buildings of this part of the town. The 1909 fire broke out it is thought as a result of failure to extinguish a match in the Granary of Cooper Brothers and rapidly spread through Cooper's Yard. The fire brigade attended but their pump was steam powered and took time to reach operating pressure. The water mains were insufficient alone to extiguish the fire and many fire pumps were called to assist. The Dunn's shop at 20 Market Square was burnt out with the roof off and the furniture store at the rear was destroyed. Remarkably although water damaged the Funeral account books with one or two losses largely survived the fire and do so until this day.
H G Dunn traded from the Widmore Road Depository building until in 1922 they were able to return to 20 Market Square which can be seen to the left hand of the above image. Dunn's offer to buy the remaining buildings at 21-24 Market Square was accepted and the 300 year old buildings were demolished and in 1928/29 Dunns erected a modern Arts and Craft style three story department store at a cost of £16,000 which is shown in the image circa 1930. This building was to serve the town until destroyed by high explosive and inendiary bombing in 1941. Dunn's premises in Widmore Road were also lost on the same night due to incendiary bombs.
Affectionately known as the Governor H G Dunn lead a large staff. Bromley Archives and Local Studies hold amongst the materials deposited by his grandson Geoffrey Dunn an image of a staff outing to Lullingstone in 1900 and Geoffrey left his recollection of those involved. The Lullingstone image includes a group of men who cycled to Lullingstone another image shows H G surrounded by staff on the platform at Bromley Station before embarking by train. In 1925 when H G and his wife celebrated their golden anniversary 80 staff dined with them as reported in the Bromley and District times.
His son Edward managed in the business in the 1930's along with his son Geoffrey. Geoffrey Dunn had introduced modern designs to the shop and in 1937 was eleceted to the council of the Council of Industrial design and in 1951 to the council of the Royal College of Art. In a 1952 article in "Future" magazine entitled Dunns and essay in design (Future Vol vII number1 pp50-54) the company's clientele are identified as including those who took the company offer of overnight accommodation on production of a rail ticket. The article mentions customers from Edinburgh and Glasgow. The attraction of modern design furniture at low prices by a company outside London and able to deliver brought a great deal of business to the town which had plenty of accommodation.
Each male member of the Dunn family served their time in organising funerals and the funeral accounts also record the participation of their wives in this aspect of serving the bereaved,either assisting in female burials in furnishing the coffin or preparing the corpse for burial and identifying burial plots in relevant records. As an experienced undertaker Geoffrey Dunn served in the Fatal Casualty Service Civil Defence at the outbreak of war before serving in the forces later in the War.
Following the bombing Geoffrey Dunn traded on the bomb site using a temporary building for furniture sales before commissioning the architect Bertram Carter to rebuild on the site the award winning three storey post war building which is locally listed and houses Argos,Lakeland, Wallis and Starbucks on the ground floor the remaining floors now providing office space. Geoffrey Dunn retired and sold the premises in 1967 to Heals.
 © Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2015

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Where may my Bromley Ancestor have been cremated?

I recently was asked this question by a visitor to Bromley Archives and Local Studies and it is interesting to record that in the latter quarter of the nineteenth century cremation came to be a phenomenon.
In the last decade of the century the Dunn Funeral accounts contain references to cremation.
The practice of burning bodies in many civilisations has been recorded for millenia some Australian evidence suggests ritual 20,000 years old. The Egyptians adopted preservation of the body and the Romans also preserved the body in a lead or stone coffin long before Christianity spread across Europe.
Early Christianity rejected cremation as a remaining pagan ritual and developed the belief that the Resurrection of Christ (from the Jewish tradition of burial in a stone tomb) indicated a need for the individual at the Second Coming of Christ to present their whole body before him rather than as a fragmented body of ash.
In the nineteenth century British involvement in India and other countries where open air cremations took place lead to the suggestion that crematoria should be built in India to end such open air cremation and in Britain suggested legislation but both church and government opposed the suggestion of cremation.
In 1874 in London the Cremation Society was formed and campaigned for cremation due to the growth in population in many cities exceeding the burial space with consequent increase in expense of burial. The idea of a cheaper and cleaner alternative to the costs of funeral and burial which involved purchase of ground in a burial site governed by legislation to protect water sources from ground pollution was attractive to many people. In Germany crematoria were in operation but a number of British Bishops objected to this example as " a heathen practice".
Sir Henry Thompson Physician to Queen Victoria lead the Cremation Society to negotiate with the London Necropolis Company to purchase an acre of  land near Woking despite opposition and on 17 March 1879 they tested the crematoria by cremating a dead horse which lead to local residents complaining and The Home Secretary, Sir Richard Cross also objected on the grounds that evidence of a murder might be destroyed before proper medical examination of a body could be conducted.
But it was the case of  Doctor William Price an 83 year old Druid medical practitioner in Glamorgan. Price was also an anti vivisectionist strict vegetarian who advocated free love and fathered a son by his housekeeper,naming his son Jesus Christ Price. When the child died aged 5 days in January 1884 Price cremated his remains  on an open air pyre on a hill in Llantrisant dressed in Druidic robes and conducting druidic ritual. So great was the public outcry that Price was mobbed by an angry crowd to be rescued by the police who arrested him for what they believed to be illegal disposal of a corpse which was recovered from the flames.The corpse was medically examined and found to have died of natural causes. Price appeared at Cardiff Assizes before Mister Justice Stephen who agreed with Price's defence that cremation was neither legal or illegal and the case lead to the body being released  for Price to conduct his Druidic cremation at Llantrisant on 14 March 1884.further detail on Price This case lead to legislation which brought passage of the Cremation Act 1902 c.8 Regnal 2_Edw_7.
The Act regulated the location of crematoria and inspection of facilities and authrised local Crematoria.
However the other effect of Price's case at Cardiff Assizes was to enable the Cremation Society to begin cremations at Woking. On 26 March 1885 Mrs Jeannette Pickersgill was cremated at Woking and 2 further creamtions followed in 1885. In 1886 ten bodies were cremated and by 1888 when 28 cremations took place additional land for a chapel,waiting rooms and other facilities were provided by public subscription.
To return to Bromley the first record source for cremation of residents of the town is the Dunn funeral account. By the 1880's the Dunn family had conducted funerals since 1803 and from 1866 onwards commercial directories do not identify another Bromley undertaker in business until the end of the nineteeth century. The Cremation Society had clearly been of interest to that number of persons who had been buried in the unconsecrated area of the Bromley Burial Board Cemetery and Dunns as a mature undertaking business and member of the national body were familiar with both the London Necropolis Company and the Cremation Society. The carriage of corpses from Woking for burial in South London as well as carriage of corpses to Waterloo for burial at Woking is present in the accounts as Dunns buried in most London cemeteries and collected bodies repatriated to England from overseas. It is not surprising therefore to find references to Woking crematorium and fees of £5 to the Cremation Society in a small number of accounts each year as the Woking Crematorium became increasingly popular. Dunns provided a type of coffin which met the requirements of The Cremation Society and all subsequent creamations that is a coffin assembled from easily combustible materials and without metallic furnishings and this is mentioned in accounts from the 1890's.
Herbert George Dunn modernised all aspects of the business in Market Square and the accounts contain evidence of Dunns being part of London and national trade association for undertakers. In the last years of the nineteenth century the British Institute of Undertakers was formed. In 1904 the London Funeral Furnishers Association came into being followed by the British Undertakers' Association. Dunns were members of these developing Associations  and would have approved for membership any undertakers beginning to trade in Bromley..
In 1900 land for the first crematorium in London, Golders Green Crematorium was purchased and the Crematorium opened in 1902 offering families and funeral directors assisting them an alternative to Woking. It was not until 1956 that the Beckenham Crematorium and Cemetery on the site of the Crystal Palace District Cemetery or Elmers End Cemetery of the nineteenth century  provided local crematorium for Bromley and district.
© Henry Mantell 2015

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Hands on ....but not at Bromley Museum

This week I spent a thoroughly absorbing morning at Bethlem Museum of the Mind visiting both the Gallery and Museum which had a "hands on" experience with items from the Bethlem  collection. I would describe the many items displayed as relatively easy to work out through to complete mysteries.
It is worth bearing in mind that the the archive is from the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world and therefore objects which remain unclassified and mysterious can come from eighteenth or twentieth century use.
This was also an opportunity for me to meet the wonderful Renia Jenkins who had set visitors the challenges. Some of the items took me back to my childhood early memories. I soon recognised a familiar small object and recalled my grandmother in Staffordshire who cooked on a black lead range with a kettle suspended over the open grate and three ovens;one was a slow oven which cooked rice pudding,another was the bread oven and this is where I learned to bake. The third oven was for roasting etc. Of course the lead range the precursor of the beloved Aga cooker (on which my mother worked as a housekeeper) needed to be black leaded regularly and there at Bethlem was Zebra which my grandmother used! I began to think of the Lambeth site of the hospital and of the kitchen and laundry for the hospital.
As well as some scientific items one a mysterious glass measuring jar marked in both different spoon sizes and liquid measures. The glass was however not open at the top and possessed a shoulder and angled opening. Renia said that this had bemused dispensing chemist historians and the purpose remains a mystery. A fascinating object and I wondered roughly what period the manufactured glass had come from. My memory of Bethlem's apothecary until the Asylum reforms at Lambeth in the 1850's had me wondering who had used the measuring device. An intriguing conundrum and it was a lesson in the challenge of catalogue descriptions for such artefacts.
Renia had another challenge in the shape of a cast iron object with 4 clearly constructed holes for fixing either vertically or horizontally. A plain functional hinged handle opened around three different diameter openings. As I handled the object it felt natural for me for this object to be mounted vertically somewhere as the handles seem inclined to hang and form a closure. The black painted cast iron was decorated with a foliage pattern. A true mystery of the kind that you keep turning over in your mind.
When I returned online I emailed a USA based genealogist who I knew had knowledge of Pennsylvania cast iron manufactured savings boxes and other items and gave a verbal description of the Bethlem object. I was delighted with the response as I was able to pass on to Renia what the mystery item was.
 This item is more elaborate than the simpler Bethlem version whose handle was plain cast iron. The catalogue description of the cast iron Crimpier was as follows
American, 19th century figural crimpier or flutter in the form of three footed foliage base with hinged top, upon which is winding snake with head raised and acting as handle; opens to reveal 4 graduated vertically fluted cylinders, in old, if not original black paint; cast intaglio mark on base J. Monis Co./Phil.; 10" long x 5.4" wide x 3.25" high.
The Bethlem item is therefore from the laundry of the hospital and was designed to hold 3 sizes of cast iron rollers for use in ironing collars. It's date and manufacture are not known. What was not present at Bethlem was the other parts of the equipment which would have been heated in a fire and then the roller would have gained heat from the roller base. The roller would be tested on paper for sufficient heat to perform the ironing function.
Renia has contacted me since my visit and found herself "grateful cross and delighted" at my finding what this mystery object was for. My first point in this blog is to emphasise that I was a member of the public offered a hands on experience by Bethlem Museum and that this is the very essence of museum collections that something historical which is not recognised or understood by the present generation has value in describing the social history of earlier generations. In over 6 decades of life I am still learning about my forebears through the opportunites to handle and visit artefacts in collections and what a collection Bethlem possesses!
Which brings me to a second point the sad subject of Bromley Museum. Prolific blogger and museum volunteer Tincture of Museum has described the decision of councillors on the Executive this month to close Bromley Museum from 1 October 2015 see Bromley Museum Lost
The Bromley Museum service has offered artefacts to 60 schools in the large London borough who are required within the National Curriculum to study various periods of history. The strength of Bromley Museum has been the work of its Education officer (soon to be redundant) in providing museum based activities during school holidays and hands on experience in schools and Museum. Those elected councillors who have ended the Museum have denied access to the collections by learners of all ages but have certainly disadvantaged the rising generation of Bromley Residents.
Bromley proposes to offer two display spaces in the Central Libray although there will be no curator. Bromley Central Library is a building which has been underfunded for decades. It's external cladding of small tiles tinkles down due to weather erosion onto the Neuwied way entrance to Libray and Churchill Theatre as well as flat roofs. The fourth floor toilets have an airlock that is audible throughout all public floors of the building but councillors who demonstrably cannot distinguish between the disciplines of Archival collection and storage and curation of artefects are offering a "new and exciting" display of museum artefacts in the Library on two different floors.
As a daily researcher in the Archival material it does appear that this display is a cosmetic attempt at hiding a dogma of cutting jobs and services. Housing the John Lubbock Collection on the second floor of the building displaces other services offered and is not the most frequented area of the Library building so footfall is likely to be diminished. The Archives and Local Studies staff are committed to providing an excellent service to researchers in maps and document collections. They do not have the time or experience to answer visitors questions about The Lubbock commissioned paintings about the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods and artefacts. Staff cannot at present keep pace with tasks involved in acquisitions so the notion of dealing with museum artefacts is unreal. They do help many to locate council minutes electoral registrations at addresses, house histories, legal searches of archival material and image collections as well as service the large family history research and local history projects.
This blog has been long enough but to hear an elected councillor express that the nationally and internationally significant John Lubbock Collection including the Ernest Griset paintings commissioned by Sir John Lubbock are of little local interest (or apparent value) is lamentable. Lubbock was born and lived  at High Elms in Downe and the collection was at High Elms until surviving the fire which destroyed the house. It is subject to a deed of Covenant loaned to the public of Bromley for public display. It remains to be seen how dogma from local councillors pursuing an austerity programme will deprive local people of the collection. It is ignorance and inability to master a brief that leads a member of a council executive to voice the opinion that Sir John Lubbock 1st Lord Avebury 1834-1913 did not live at High Elms for long. There can be no dialogue with such councillors on the value of history in educating all. I would suggest that a visit to the National School at Downe (now Downe Village Hall) might be a starting point in the reeducation of Bromley Councillors.
I am grateful for the volunteers at Bromley Museum like Tincture of Museum for their contributions to the service.
 © Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2015

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Bethlem Museum:held by Jane Fradgley

From 30 May-21 August 2015 Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery hosts an exhibition of the photography of the "strong" clothing used as restraints. This work has been exhibited before in a variety of locations,
Jane Fradgley visited the small old Bethlem Archives in 2010 and was able to handle the clothing and then photograph in various lighting techniques.
I loved Jane's photographs some items appear with dark backgrounds and the clothing takes on an almost ghostly quality evoking imagination of the occupant. The texture of the clothing is immediate and I felt offered a feeling of safety.
I can recommend a visit to the exhibition as the photography is evocative and enhances the permanent exhibit in the Museum which was itself the subject of a symposium on displaying the subject in the Museum.
One of the rooms at Bethlem Museum of the Mind focuses on restraint and examples of strong clothing. The subject of physical restraint in psychiatry had been controversial and the abandonment of restraints in psychiatric hospitals lead some to claim that it may ironically cause harm to patients.
The Bethlem Royal Hospital officially abandoned restraint in 1851 and the Museum exhibits include items predating this.In the late nineteenth century non-restraint was reassessed and some garments began to reappear and the Bethlem Archive reflects these and the Restraint register displayed illustrates why certain items were in use.
George Savage Bethlem's Superintendent (see George Savage The Lancet 1888 "The Mechanical Restraint of the Insane") described "strong clothing" as garments made of stout linen or woolen material and lined throughout with flannel. The limbs are all free to move but the hands are enclosed in the extremities of the dress, which are padded". He therefore saw slight restraint as liberating people from the mindset of straitwaistcoats handcuffs and padded rooms.
However the 16-20 people per annum restrained by Savage in the Bethlem register was criticised in letters to the Times with eminent psychiatrists on both sides of the debate. In 1890 the Lunacy Act was introduced and was explicit in regulating restraint for the first time and set guidelines. After the introduction of the Act there is an argument that asylums largely adopted the same types of restraint as Savage at Bethlem.
There is scope for failures to record all instances of restraint and physical restraint remained in use into the twentieth century.
I have an immediate interest in physical restraint as later this year I will begin to transcribe the Lunacy Registers of Bromley Poor Law Union Workhouse at Locksbottom as part of the Kent Online Parish Clerks and Bromley Archives Indexing agreement. The Workhouse has a Physical Restraint Register which is not open to the public for another 15 years as entries continued until 1930.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Bromley Funeral vehicles 1803-1915 operated by Dunns

The work of transcribing the first 10 surviving volumes of Dunns funeral accounts is nearing completion and this gives me an opportunity to document the vehicles of the funeral trade carried out by Dunns.
The early volumes from 1803-1830 are descriptive of the Georgian and Regency period of funerals.
As the later volumes confirm the Dunn family prior to 1830 rely on hearses hired by the day although it appears that a hearse was acquired in the 1820's and remained in service. Certainly it is possible to identify this vehicle in accounts as the cost of use was lower than that hired for the occasion.
From the coming of the railway to Bromley the death trade in Bromley changes;it is not uncommon for funeral parties to travel with the coffin by rail and for coffins and Attendant to travel long distances and the accounts include burials in Devon attended and organised by the Dunn family.
In the 1870's there is specific reference to the combined hearse and coach designed by George Shillibeer and as father's give way to son's carrying on the funeral trade within the Dunn family the charge for the "funeral car" reflects use of a Dunn owned Shillibeer. The accounts even detail that the charge for "Funeral car glazed" is identical to the charge for the company's hearse. The Bromley Burial Board Cemetery in London Road was rapidly occupied and the ability to carry passengers (often bearers) as well as the coffin meant it was useful for collection of the body from rail stations in the district  for burial in Bromley.
 The fashion of mourners travelling in carriages continued for a small number of more elaborate funerals but the trade catered to offer a simpler and cheaper funeral for all classes. There was  a readily available group of coachmen in Bromley and Dunn was by the 1870's one of the longest established businesses in Bromley retailing furniture and had expanded from the Market Square premises to open a three storey large furniture depository which housed the vehicle fleet. The Dunn family were one of the major employers in the town.
The need to collect corpses from the Kent County Asylum at Barming Heath lead the family to utilise a variety of vehicles. The company's horse drawn furniture vans were used to collect bodies from Barming and all London Hospitals to bring the corpse in a shell to spend a night before burial either in the shop at Market Square with Attendant or in the depository, This building had been built to be wood partitioned into secure "rooms" for storage and it was therefore relatively simple for a body to accommodated. The accounts regularly specify the location. It is worth bearing in mind that more than one funeral a day might be arranged. Only the large houses of the district could accommodate a coffin and Attendant the accounts specify which room the deceased is to be attendend in such circumstances.
In many child funerals and several adult funerals a year a Brougham was capable of conveying a body to the Cemetery. The Brougham was readily available in Bromley for hire with or without driver and obviously developed as well as cab and fly hire as the need for onward travel from stations developed. The Brougham was a light four wheeled horse drawn carriage which had the advantage of as small a turning circle as the London Carriage Office "Conditions for Fitness" for licensing as a cab for hire.